Remembering Bobby Darin
by David Soulsby, author of the novel Somewhere in the Distance
I became an instant Bobby Darin fan the moment I heard Dream
Lover booming out of the fairground speakers as the carousel whirled round merrily in its giddy, up and down
jerky fashion. It was a song that captured the moment: I was in my early teens and life seemed so innocent and free
of worries. It's a song that remains with me to this day. Along with Beyond The Sea, Clementine,
You Must Have Been A Beautiful Baby, Multiplication, Eighteen Yellow Roses and If I Were A
Carpenter it brings back fond memories of a time long gone but not forgotten.
Picture the scene in late 1968: Bobby Darin is still recovering
from his divorce from Sandra Dee, and still reeling from the assassination of Bobby Kennedy, who he supported
tirelessly during his presidential campaign. His brutal death hits him hard. These shocks and disappointments and
the revelation that the women who he grew up knowing as his mother and grandmother were in fact just the opposite
haunt him. They’re devastating blows to his very being. In this state of confusion and depression he takes to the
Big Sur in California and opts for a reclusive life, exchanging the trappings of fame and celebrity for a simple
trailer and seeking to ease his troubles among the vast beautiful scenery and soothing tranquillity of the
inspiring surroundings …
Bare footed, his loose shirt flapping in the warm breeze, Darin
strolls along the beach, sand between his toes, the sound of the lapping waves competing with the squawk of the
circling gulls that glide and swoop overhead. He bends to pick up a large pebble and playfully skims it across the
water, watching its rise and arc before it eventually vanishes into the vastness of the Pacific. Other times, treks
through the beautiful forests bring a sense of wellbeing and humility.
It’s an ideal environment in which to heal the wounds, clear the
mind and rekindle the creative juices. Despite the heartbreak and disillusion he determines to come through it all
and rebuild his life and career. Back at the trailer he sets about writing a clutch of fresh songs that will give
him a new lease of life.
These songs are appropriately entitled Songs From Big
Sur. My favourite is Jingle Jangle Jungle. Simply because it’s so catchy. You just have to go along
with its lively feel. Other songs that stand out are Long Time Movin’, Long Line Rider, Baby May, and
Distractions. They’re as good a collection of songs as you’ll hope to find, mixing rock ‘n’ roll with
blues and folk/country influences.
Anyone not knowing who he was would take Darin to be just an
ordinary guy living the back-to-nature lifestyle. In his jeans and casual shirts he would be seen chopping wood for
kindle, growing some of his food. He prepared his own meals, washed and laundered his clothes. It was afar cry from
the wealthy life he turned his back on. But it paid dividends. He found peace of mind …
Returning to early in the Sixties, I recall going to see the movie
Come September with school friends. We went because it had Bobby Darin and Sandra Dee in it. They weren’t
the main stars, but that didn’t matter to us. We just wanted to see the young stars on the big screen. And they
didn’t disappoint. As well as highlighting his singing prowess, the movie gave Darin a chance to show that he could
act as well. He would, of course, go on to excel in other roles throughout the Sixties and earn respect among the
Darin appeared on British television several times and was always
popular with audiences. He had a way of making you feel comfortable. He had a real presence. I did see him perform
live once on tour in Britain at the start of the Sixties. The memory isn’t crystal sharp but I do remember being
excited at the time.
Sadly, Darin died on December 20 1973 aged just 37. It was short
life, not unexpected given the health problems that had dogged him since childhood, but it was a shock all the
same. Forty years on and he is not forgotten. When you talk about versatility there were few singers around who
could match him. He tackled pop, rock ‘n’ roll, ballads, folk and country and stamped his personality on them all.
That’s his legacy.
David Soulsby lives in Romford, Essex, England, and is now retired after 46 years as a journalist. During his career, he worked on local and national
newspapers and magazines, and in the Sixties met many of his musical heroes, including Johnny Cash, Bob Dylan,
Roy Orbison, Sonny Boy Williamson, James Brown and Mel Torme. He’s now freelancing as a writer
and proof-reader, working from home. He’s the author of Somewhere In The Distance, a novel
about four friends growing up in the